It’s not in the rules, per say. It’s just understood. There are things you do and don’t do when you’re playing the game. And, if you violate “the Code”, on purpose or not, it could spell trouble for you, and maybe even your team.
So, if you play baseball, you need to know “the Code.”
It Could Get Ugly
A few years ago, my son, Griffin, was playing in a game. It was a tournament, and pitching was thin. Griff earned the starting nod on the mound, and promptly gave up 8 runs in the first inning. Some were earned, some weren’t. When the final out of the inning was recorded, Griff was gassed. It was a typical July summer day, and he’d played a game earlier in the day. His gas tank was nearing empty.
In the bottom half of the first, Griff was the third batter. I don’t remember how many outs there were, or if anyone was on base. But, I do remember Griff hit a ball that sailed high above the right fielder’s head and over the fence. It was impressive. A high, towering shot that cleared the tree in right field.
I watched the ball as it left the field, amazed and impressed. Problem was, Griff did the same. Since the ball was down the line, he wasn’t sure if it would be fair or foul. So, he stood there…and watched.
He broke “the Code.”
Even worse, because he was so gassed from throwing ump-teen pitches in the top of the inning, he took a while to round the bases.
He broke “the Code”…again.
But, he wasn’t the only one who violated the unwritten rules of the game. As Griffin came to bat again later in the game, with runners on 2nd and 3rd, the opposing pitcher threw at him for his earlier discrepancies. Fair enough. No Code broken there.
But, the problem was…the pitcher missed him. In an effort to retaliate for Griff’s actions earlier, he tried to hit Griffin…a little “payback.” But, here’s where it gets even worse. On the next pitch, the pitcher threw at Griffin – again! And, again, he missed him.
This time, the pitcher broke “the Code.” You get one chance at payback. A chance to send a message. Make good use of it.
(The worst example, in my opinion, of breaking “The Code” is in this year’s Little League World Series. The games this year were known for the many home runs that were hit. When your pitcher gives up a shot, do not congratulate the player as he rounds the bases. If I’m the pitcher, I’ll give you “high five” in the dugout, but in a different way!)
“The Code” is as much a part of baseball as Babe Ruth, Wrigley Field, and hot dogs. It’s part of the game, something you abide by because, well, you respect the game and those who’ve played it.
These are a self-imposed morality on the game. The most obvious one is the one that says you should never show up a pitcher after a home run. Then, there’s the rule that says you don’t steal a base when your team has a big lead. And, if one of your teammates get maliciously pegged by the pitcher, you, as a pitcher, are mandated to retaliate. Plain and simple.
Yet, according the Justin Turbow, author of The Baseball Codes, there are 10 rules that may not be as well known, yet are still understood to be “The Code.”
1. Don’t swing at the first pitch after back-to-back home runs.
2. Don’t work the count when your team is up or down by a lot.
3. When hit by a pitch, don’t rub it.
4. Don’t stand on the dirt cutout of the plate while a pitcher is warming up.
5. Don’t walk in front of the catcher or umpire when getting into the batter’s box.
6. Don’t help the opposition when they’re making a play next to your dugout.
7. Relievers take it easy when they’re facing other relievers.
8. Follow the umpire’s code when addressing them on the field.
9. Pitchers stay in the dugout until the end of the inning in which they get pulled.
10. Pitchers never show up their fielders.
You can follow Turbow’s blog here and read examples of “The Code” broken.